Prince William Supervisor Hold Press Conference to Announce Rural Crescent Resolution

| October 8, 2019 | 0 Comments | News

Supervisors Jeanine Lawson (R-Brentsville), Pete Candland (R-Gainesville) and Frank Principi (D-Woodbridge) held a press conference, Tuesday, in which they announced they were putting forth a resolution for the county planning department to halt exploring various options for the Rural Crescent, except Purchase of Development Rights.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Prince William County Board of Supervisors directs all County staff to suspend any and all efforts on the Rural Clustering and Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) programs, including any possible policy changes to the Rural Area/Urban Growth Boundary; removes from the Planning Commission’s work schedule the current Rural Area review work on the Rural Clustering and Transfer of Development Rights programs; and that County staff continues only the review of the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program with a focus on the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ adopted goals and recommendations.

The Rural Crescent includes 117,000 acres on the southern edges of Prince William County. In that area new development is limited to one home per 10 acres. The crescent was protected in 1998 to keep an area of the county that would not be touched by higher impact residential and commercial development.

Lawson spoke first at the conference, providing background on the issue. She explained that the same people advocating to dismantle the rural area back in 1999 are by and large the same people requesting to “preserve” the crescent through alternate means today.

They are now promoting alternative land uses under the guise of preservation of land, while downplaying other issues, such as the high cost of developing the area.

Lawson said that in 2012, a push to change the comp plan began landowners and developers who wanted to dismantle the rural crescent, one land-owner in particular. Those advocates convinced the board (by way of a split vote) to conduct a study on Rural Crescent policies. Those plans were presented in 2014.

This summer, the county presented options for clustering, PDR [Purchase of Development Rights] and TDRs [Transfer of Development Rights] that would allow sewer in some parts of the rural crescent, preserve “open space,” and allow land owners to make a profit on selling their development rights. In September, they scaled back those plans eliminating the idea of a “transitional ribbon” but similar concepts remained.

Those speaking in favor of new development clustered in the Rural Crescent, said it was a better option than carving the Rural Crescent into 10 acre lots. They said it was better for preservation of open land. But Lawson said it was just a rebranding by a very successful and powerful PR firm.

What landowners and developers did was make their desires more attractive to the community, said she. However, Lawson said there is little difference. She explained bringing higher density development in the Rural Crescent would not only hurt the environment, but would require a tremendous amount of money to build infrastructure where little exists today.

Tax dollars would have to be allocated to build new roads, schools, and bridges where there are none. It would also require additional police, first responders and teachers. Essentially, growth in the Rural Crescent would weigh financially on every resident and hurt existing areas.

Lawson said that while land-owners are within their right to advocate for land-use, she will be standing with the vast majority of citizens who do not want to see development in the Rural Crescent, rather than a few landowners.

Candland’s Comments

Supervisor Candland spoke about the “cascading impacts” of opening the Rural Crescent. He said that it was the opposite of smart growth, because it is building where there is no public transportation.

If the “preservation” plans sound good, it is because they are based upon “focus-group tested phrases.”

Both supervisors said this argument is not about being a Republican or a Democrat. Politicians on both sides often “value campaign cash over protecting the people they wish to serve,” Candland said.

He said the effect on tax-payers will be felt.

Principi

Principi said the only constant in Prince William County has been constant growth. However, he is focused on “smart growth” in North Woodbridge. It would create mixed use in otherwise economically depressed areas. Residential areas would be paired with transportation, such as the VRE.

He said that development does not belong in the Rural Crescent, and growing there would hurt other places in the county because they would have to fund that expansion.

Conservation Groups

Elena Schlossberg is Executive Director for the Coalition to Protect Prince William County and Vice Chair for Prince William Conservation Alliance. She supports keeping the comprehensive plan as is.

“The Rural Crescent is not just about protecting the environment. It’s about how we grow the county,” she said at the conference.

Schlossberg said she moved to Prince William from Fairfax, and she appreciates Prince William’s diversity in land use from rural to sub-rural, suburban and urban.

Regarding Changing the Rural Crescent Policy

When the Planning Department presented proposed alternatives in September, staff noted that TDRs could create apartments in mixed use development areas that would bring in fewer students than large homes in the rural area.

They also said that clustering of homes in the rural area would better preserve its rural character, and they hoped to expand economic opportunities in appropriate ways.

Lawson spoke first providing background in the issue. She explained that the same people advocating to preserve the rural crescent through a change to the comprehensive plan back in 1999 were the same people requests to “preserve” the crescent through alternate means today.

They are now promoting alternative land uses under the guise of preservation of land, while downplaying the issue that they would be opening to rural area to sewer, higher density development and infrastructure needs.

She said that in 2012, a push to change the comp plan began landowners and developers who wanted to dismantle the rural crescent, one land-owner in particular. Those advocates convinced the board (by way of a split vote) to conduct a study on Rural Crescent policies. Those plans were presented in 2014.

This summer, the county presented options for clustering, PDR [Purchase of Development Rights] and TDRs [Transfer of Development Rights] that would allow sewer in some parts of the rural crescent, preserve “open space,” and allow land owners to make a profit on selling their development rights. In September, they scaled back those plans eliminating the idea of a “transitional ribbon” but the concepts remained.

Those speaking in favor of new development clustered in the Rural Crescent said it was a better option than carving the Rural Crescent into 10 acre lots, and it was about preservation of open land. But Lawson said it was just rebranding by a very successful and powerful PR firm.

What they did was make their desires more attractive to the community, said she. However, Lawson said there is little difference, because bringing higher density development in the Rural Crescent not only hurts the environment, but would require a tremendous amount of money to build infrastructure where little exists.

Tax dollars would have to be allocated to build news roads, schools, and bridges where there are none. It would also require additional police, first responders and teachers. Essentially, growth in the Rural Crescent would weigh financially on every resident and hurt existing areas.

Lawson said that while land-owners are within their right to advocate for land-use, she will be standing with the vast majority of citizens who do not want to see development in the Rural Crescent, rather than a few landowners.

Candland’s Comments

Supervisor Candland spoke about the “cascading impacts” of opening the Rural Crescent. He said that it was the opposition of smart growth, because it is building where there is not transportation.

If the “preservation” plans sound good, it is because they are based upon “focus-group tested phrases.”

Both supervisors said this is nothing about being a Republican or a Democrat. Politicians on both sides often “value campaign cash over protecting the people they wish to serve.”

He said the effect on tax-payers will be felt.

Principi

Principi said the only constant in Prince William County has been constant growth. However, he is focused on “smart growth” in North Woodbridge. It would create mixed use in otherwise depressed areas. Residential areas would be paired with transportation, such as the VRE.

He said that development does not belong in the Rural Cresent, and growing there would hurt other places in the county because they would have to fund that expansion.

Conservation Groups

Elena Schlossberg is Executive Director for the Coalition to Protect Prince William County and Vice Chair for Prince William Conservation Alliance. She supports keeping the comprehensive plan as is.

“The Rural Crescent is not just about protecting the environment. It’s about how we grow the county.”

Schlossberg moved to Prince William from Fairfax and said she appreciates Prince William’s diversity in land use from rural to sub-rural, suburban and urban.

Regarding Changing the Rural Crescent Policy

When the Planning Department presented proposed alternatives in September, staff noted that TDRs could create apartments in mixed use development areas that would bring in fewer students than large homes in the rural area.

They also said that clustering of homes in the rural area would better preserve its rural character, and they hoped to expand economic opportunities in appropriate ways.

 

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